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The Imagination as incubator for the Understanding

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  • Charles M. Saunders
    Dear Terry and Edward,Sorry for just plunging into this discussion.Somewhere Spinoza remarks that the Imagination is not to be totally disparaged.{Sorry for
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 14, 2000
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      Dear Terry and Edward,Sorry for just plunging into this
      discussion.Somewhere Spinoza remarks that the Imagination is not to
      be totally disparaged.{Sorry for not referencing the actual passage
      here.}Often we become so engrossed in our desire to access the
      Understanding that we overlook the essential relationship between the
      Imagination and the Understanding.Spinoza uses the terms
      "representation" and "reproduce" to indicate the process whereby
      theImagination first begins to apprehend or have an inkling of a
      possible "Fixed Good having the power to communicate Itself".The
      power of the Imagination is no small help in the initial process of
      forming adequate Ideas.The Imagination is the incubator wherein the
      grist for the mill of Understanding begins to
      formulate.Regards,Charles M. Saunders
    • Terry Neff
      Hi Charles, It s good to see activity on the Spinoza lists. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I ve been thinking about what you have said below and as usual
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 15, 2000
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        Hi Charles,

        It's good to see activity on the Spinoza lists. Thank you for sharing
        your thoughts.

        I've been thinking about what you have said below and as usual a few
        things appeared in my imagination rather quickly and confusedly. It is first
        of all through my imagination that I begin to form some idea about what the
        words might have meant to you but of course it is the experiences I have
        had, associated with those words, that "represent" a meaning to me. Without
        the Imagination our ability to read these words on the screen, use these
        computers, key in these words, walk, talk, and do most all of the ordinary
        things of human life seem inconceivable.

        >
        > Somewhere Spinoza remarks that the Imagination is not to
        > be totally disparaged.{Sorry for not referencing the actual passage
        > here.} Often we become so engrossed in our desire to access the
        > Understanding that we overlook the essential relationship between the
        > Imagination and the Understanding.
        >

        That Spinoza himself was focused on Improving his Understanding, not his
        Imagination seems to be suggested by the title of this work but if there is
        any doubt about this then what might we make of such statements as:

        ============ TEI-P84(64):
        Thus, then, we have distinguished between a true idea and other
        perceptions, and shown that ideas fictitious , false, and the rest,
        originate in the IMAGINATION--that is, in certain sensations fortuitous (so
        to speak) and disconnected, arising not from the power of the mind, but from
        external causes, according as the body, sleeping or waking, receives various
        motions.

        But one may take any view one likes of the IMAGINATION so long as one
        acknowledges that it is different from the UNDERSTANDING, and that the soul
        is passive with regard to it. The view taken is immaterial, if we know that
        the IMAGINATION is something indefinite, with regard to which the soul is
        passive, and that we can by some means or other free ourselves therefrom
        with the help of the UNDERSTANDING.
        ============

        This seems to me to be one of many places in Spinoza's writings where he
        discusses what you have referred to as "the essential relationship between
        the Imagination and the Understanding". What is the essential relationship
        you are referring to if not this?

        Where you say that "Often we become so engrossed in our desire to access
        the Understanding..." I would suggest, according to Spinoza, that this is
        not the case at all but rather we most often become enchanted by our own
        imagination, which flows passively with no effort on our part. While we
        refer to this world of images as our "understanding" (for example, when
        people say: "I understand it's going to rain today.") it has little to do
        with the properties of what Spinoza refers to as "The Understanding" and
        which he enumerates near the end of this work.

        >
        > The power of the Imagination is no small help in the initial process of
        > forming adequate Ideas.The Imagination is the incubator wherein the
        > grist for the mill of Understanding begins to formulate.
        >

        The imagination is a large part of ordinary human life and as mentioned
        above we could not even read these words without it's aid but I don't
        Understand what you are suggesting here. Are we to ignore Spinoza's advice
        about seeking to Improve our Understanding and to recognize the limitations
        and confusions brought about through the operations of the Imagination?

        We need to make efforts to Improve our Understanding, not our
        Imagination. Spinoza does suggest in part five of the Ethics how we can best
        use our Imagination as a tool toward the end of Understanding our own nature
        and participating in life's ever-changing conditions but it's just not clear
        to me what you are suggesting when you say: "The power of the Imagination is
        no small help in the initial process of forming adequate Ideas" other than
        this. Perhaps you might offer an example of some adequate idea you have
        formed and describe how your imagination helped you toward understanding
        that idea? In other words, how do you actually apply this "no small help" of
        the imagination?

        This is a great topic for this particular work and perhaps we could
        begin a slow reading as we ponder these ideas.

        Regards,
        Terry
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